Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy or BHRT is a highly effective method of treating many conditions and improving wellness. Sadly, there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation surrounding this powerful treatment.
Multiple media outlets and individuals in the medical community have incorrectly portrayed BHRT as “dangerous” and “not suitable for standard practice”. The spread of anti-BHRT propaganda has caused many individuals to develop an unfounded bias against BHRT.
By dispelling the most prominent fallacies and half-truths associated with BHRT, we hope people will be able to see that BHRT is a safe and highly beneficial treatment.
Correcting Common Misconceptions of BHRT
BHRT is a process involving supplementation with natural hormones. When properly implemented this process can restore hormonal imbalances and improve bodily function. BHRT utilizes hormones that are identical to those naturally produced by the body. This allows for impressive patient outcomes and is exceptionally safe. Sadly, the impressive safety and benefits associated with BHRT have been lost in a quagmire of hearsay and misconceptions.
Some of the common myths regarding BHRT are clarified below.
Myth 1: There Isn’t Any Research Supporting BHRT
BHRT is often discounted by individuals due to an incorrect belief that there is little research supporting BHRT. In reality many studies have been conducted specifically comparing synthetic hormones to natural hormones and their impact on the body. A significant number of scholarly studies, reviews, and papers confirm the efficacy and safety of BHRT. Positive research on BHRT has appeared in publications such as Fertility and Sterility, The Journal of Clinical Therapeutics, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and many others.
Myth 2: Hormones Increase the Risk of Cancer
Effective use of BHRT not only reduces cancer risk but also protects against carcinogens. Research does indeed show that some hormone treatments such as those containing estrogen and synthetic hormones called progestins increases the risk of developing cancer. However, a study published in a 2007 issue of Breast Cancer Research found that appropriate use of BHRT does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, using natural bioidentical hormones can actually negate the increased risk of breast cancer associated estrogen treatments.
Myth 3: There is No Difference Between Bioidentical and Synthetic Hormones
It is a common misconception that bioidentical and synthetic hormones are the same. However, there are some essential characteristics that differentiate the two. Synthetic hormones are engineered compounds commonly used in hormone therapy. These substances can cause significant disruptions and subsequent health issues whereas bioidentical hormones are largely beneficial. For example, Premarin, a common synthetic estrogen, is notably more potent and carcinogenic than estrogens naturally produced in the human body. Another synthetic hormone product called Medroxyprogesterone acetate or MPA is a synthetic form of progesterone. Use of this synthetic substitute is associated with greater risk of heart attack and stroke among menopausal women. In contrast to harmful synthetic hormones, bioidentical hormones are structurally similar to those produced by the body. These hormones have the opposite effect of synthetics and actually protect against cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Myth 4: BHRT Should be Done at the Smallest Dosage and for the Shortest Amount Time Possible
Extended use of synthetic hormones is associated with symptoms including bleeding, sleepiness or fatigue, missed periods, and other adverse effects. Because of this, doctors typically recommend patients remain on hormone therapy for as short a time as possible. However, in contrast to synthetic hormone therapies, the benefits of BHRT actually improve with extended use. Multiple studies show that the protective qualities of BHRT that reduce the risk of developing heart disease and cancers are more effective at larger doses and longer treatment duration.
Myth 5: Bioidentical Hormones Are Not Prescribed Because They Are Not Safe
Even though the safety of BHRT has been confirmed by numerous studies it is more likely that doctors recommend synthetic hormone therapies. Doctors do this in part due to the influence of large pharmaceutical companies and their investment in synthetic hormone products.
Bioidentical hormones are naturally occurring and cannot be patented or trademarked. Thus, in order to make money off of hormone therapies, pharmaceutical companies developed products that are similar to hormones produced by the human body. This brought about products such as Premarin and MPA, which are associated with greater risk of cancer and other serious disease. Pharmaceutical companies provide significant incentives to doctors who push and prescribe their products. Therefore, doctors often recommend the synthetic hormones produced by pharmaceutical companies rather than suggesting less lucrative but more effective and safer bioidentical hormone treatments.
Myth 6: Hormone Therapy Increases the Risk of Heart Disease
Multiple studies have found a relationship between treatment with synthetic hormones and increased risk of heart disease. However, treatment with bioidentical hormones has been shown to support factors that limit the risk of cardiovascular disease. A large study called the PEPI trial investigated the effect of synthetic hormones and natural hormones when treating postmenopausal women. The study found that natural hormones had a significantly greater benefit on cholesterol values, triglycerides, and general cardiac health when compared to synthetics. This information in conjunction with other research lead the president of the American Heart Association to say that women who change from a synthetic hormone product to natural progesterone will have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease.
Myth 7: BHRT and Synthetic Hormones are Equally Effective as Natural Hormones
Studies show that bioidentical hormones and their synthetic counterparts have very different and often entirely opposite effects on the body. Where synthetic hormones increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and hormone-related issues, bioidentical hormones reduce the risk of these conditions while improving various bodily functions. Research shows that women taking bioidentical hormones report greater improvement and satisfaction after abandoning treatment with synthetics. Studies confirm that BHRT is not only more effective than synthetic products but is also associated with fewer side effects and better patient outcomes.
Stop the Spread of Misinformation
Bioidentical hormones have been incorrectly portrayed as dangerous and ineffective. One of the major reasons for this is a lack of differentiation between bioidentical and synthetic hormones. Understanding the major differences between these two categories as well as the significant benefits provided by bioidentical hormones should dispel the common misconceptions and myths that have been built them. Help remove the stigma of BHRT by sharing the truth about this important and powerful treatment!
1. Kent Holtorf, MD. “The Bioidentical Hormone Debate: Are Bioidentical Hormones (Estradiol, Estriol, and Progesterone) Safer or More Efficacious than Commonly Used Synthetic Versions in Hormone Replacement Therapy?” Postgraduate Medicine, Volume 121, 2009 – Issue 1.
2. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Natural (Bio-identical) vs. Synthetic HRT.” https://www.holtorfmed.com/download/natural-hormone-replacement/Natural_vs_Synthetic_HRT_Literature_Review.pdf
3. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Breast Cancer and BHRT.” https://www.holtorfmed.com/download/natural-hormone-replacement/BHRT_and_Risk_of_Breast_Cancer.pdf/
4. Cannoletta M, Cagnacci A. “Modification of blood pressure in postmenopausal women: role of hormone replacement therapy.” Int J Womens Health. 2014;6:745-57. Published 2014 Aug 11.
5. Francine Grodstein, Sc.D. et al. “Postmenopausal Estrogen and Progestin Use and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.” N Engl J Med 1996; 335:453-461.
6. Fournier A, Berrino F, Clavel-Chapelon F. “Unequal risks for breast cancer associated with different hormone replacement therapies: results from the E3N cohort study.” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2007.
7. Hotze Health Staff. “Seven Myths People Believe about Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy.” Hotze Health and Wellness Center.